DC/RH Special
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DC/RH BK II, CH 28: Trial’s End

Chapter Twenty-eight: Trial’s End

One thing they never tell you about lightning, Atur realised, was how jarring it was to hear. The first time a bolt came his way would forever be immortalised in his memory. 

The cavern they were in amplified every sound, making the sounds of the fight seem louder and more intense. The echoes of their battle bounced around, making it difficult at times to pinpoint everyone’s location without looking first, a distraction that could prove deadly. Everything seemed louder and closer, from the sound of footsteps splashing through shallow pools of water to the occasional rumble of loose rocks shifting underfoot, but the lightning was especially startling.

You could feel the build-up on the skin in the scant few seconds you had before it came your way and see your hair rise off your skin. If you pay close attention, you can see it start with a soft rumble and a glow as the charge builds before it is released with a high-pitched crackling and a bright flash of light. Kind of like…

NOW!

Atur stopped, standing his ground. Conjured lightning might not be as fast as the real deal but he wasn’t anywhere near fast enough to evade it. He had tried. Instead, he put his back to the cavern wall and raised a magical shield as quickly as he could when he saw the warning signs. Even through his shield, he could feel the heat where the streaming arcs hit. As it was he already had to blink away the spots that had appeared in his vision from the flash. The horror Atur felt when he first realised what the rapid pops that followed were.

Now, however, he was practically a veteran and so he knew he just had to wait. So wait he did until the short-lived beams of writhing lightning died off, then he sprung his trap. The spell he’d been building up fired out, a chain of orange light that shot back at his adversary and struck it centre-mass. In response, an entire series of chains appeared around it wrapping it tight and anchoring the creature to the floor and to him. 

“QUICK!” the young dwarf screamed, barely keeping the bucking wisp in place. “DO IT NOW!”

Having waited for just this moment, James moved swiftly, glowing greatsword at the ready. Somehow, Sybeatr got there first, her poleaxe glowing with its own light as she scythed through the ethereal monster. James wasn’t sure how the dwarf kept beating him to the punch but he had given up trying to figure out what magic the short-limbed woman was using. Instead, he dashed right at the beast and leaping into the air, he cast his own skill [Descending Blade].

An ordinary will-o-wisp would have been cut in twain by this attack but not this wisp. This one wailed and struggled harder against its bindings, leaking ectoplasm everywhere. They had maybe twelve seconds before it got free. Time enough to dish out a few more attacks and hopefully end this fight. 

This was the last of three. The biggest and most powerful. James hadn’t even known wisps could get this big but he supposed dungeon monsters were different, the bosses even more so. The wisps he’d seen as a child were too small to even consider humans prey, choosing to feed on carrion and insects. This one, however, would have no trouble slurping up his soul.  

The few will-o-wisps he’d seen before this had been around the size of a fist, the biggest maybe a small melon. They were ghostly creatures that appeared to consist of swirling mist and light. They had glowing cores in their centres that pulsed with a sickly light, and long, flowing tendrils of mist that swirl around their form. 

Will-o-wisps were largely harmless little things if left alone but James recalled that he hadn’t quite thought so when he first saw them floating effortlessly through the air, bobbing and weaving as they moved past him. Despite their simple, insubstantial appearance, they gave off an eerie, menacing vibe, that sparked an instinctual fear in the younger James. He knew now that what he sensed then was the call of the underworld, of death. 

The Wisp Lord they were fighting gave him that creepy feeling a hundred times over. He had always been sensitive to it but when he felt the creature go ethereal and shift between realms, he could barely keep a handle on the fear that bubbled up inside him.

“KILL IT KILL IT!” his mind seemed to scream. “SALT IT AND BURN IT SO IT NEVER COMES BACK!”

As the battle raged on, the sounds of fighting became more frenzied and desperate. The combatant’s movements became more erratic, and their attacks more desperate, as each side struggled to gain the upper hand in the fight. Unfortunately for the wisp lord, the outcome was never in question. 

With a final clash of steel, the battle ended. The cavern fell silent, save for the sound of heavy breathing and the occasional moan of pain from the wounded. The three young adventurers stood panting and heaving, their weapons slick with ectoplasm and their armour damp with sweat. The only sounds left were the echoes of their own breathing and the drips of water from the cavern ceiling. Then the clapping started.


After Sarrod turned the wasp nest to ash with a spell and a handful of tinder fescue it became clear that the early floors of the dungeon did not hold much of a challenge for their overly stacked party. There was practically no suspense or danger to be had. Worse, when they reached the second-floor boss room an unspoken challenge to one-up Sarrod’s one-shot kill went round, with the mages and even Ulak’s honour guard subtlely jousting for the next go. 

To prevent a repeat event, Ulak quickly reminded everyone that the whole reason he was here was to catch up with his old mates and introduce his grandkids to the dungeon life. He couldn’t well do that if they one-shot every creature they came across. That led to a new way of challenging the dungeon. 

Now, the elders hung back and left the young uns fight, only stepping in when things got too close for comfort like the time armoured bear nearly bodyslammed a stunned James. For the will-o-wisps, Sarrod and Grimsby simply corralled the poor creatures and only sent them out one at a time to prevent the young adventurers from getting swarmed. It worked well. In fact…   

“They actually managed this one better than the last”, Nader acknowledged, joining in on the clapping.

Ulak rushed in to congratulate his grandchildren like the overly proud softy he was while Sarrod snatched a dark medallion from a trembling James. 

Thorn watched it all, feeling… he didn’t know what he felt. This was different from the wasps or even Magni. He knew these wisps; Dinargh, Baenre and Erwellas. They were among the few of their kind to survive Makas’ rampages. Time and again, he had seen them give their all for his sprites even after their masters had died. Well, Erwellas’ master was still alive. With the dungeon’s mercy and some help from Lindrea, he’d even made a full recovery. However, the point still stood. 

Even knowing that they were effectively immortal and due to be resurrected the instant they left this chamber, there was something very disconcerting about watching an acquaintance die. Understanding that they probably died dozens of times already didn’t make things better either. 

‘Gods!’ the dungeon knight exclaimed mentally. ‘We’d never even considered what this would mean for them.’

When Brandr asked for will-o-wisps for his dungeon, they had just offered up the unneeded. Those whose family and friends weren’t around to speak for them. At the time, it seemed the right choice but now…

“You alright there, Thorn!” Sarrod asked looking at him with some concern.

“Yeah!” he said, shaking off the melancholy before joining the others. In his heart though, he resolved to come back later and have a good talk with the wisps and get a sense of their new lives.


Name: Ethereal Shift Medallion |  Rank: Three | Grade: Masterwork

Affinities: Spirit, Death |   Durability: E | 

Description: A dark medallion made of strange materials that confers to its wearer. A visitant amethyst and the soul of a greater wisp are just two of the ingredients that went into its creation. The soul of the wisp gives it a strangely spiritual quality allowing the wearer to more easily sense the powers and the world beyond the veil. With some effort, one can even wrap this veil around yourself shielding you from the world and the living and giving you a taste of undeath.

Requirements: MAG F  

Effects: 

•    Touch of the Spirits: With practice, the wearer of this medallion can use it to peer beyond the veil and interact with the spectral world.

•    Ethereal Shift: Once an hour, the wielder may use this medallion to seek refuge between the nether realms and those of the living for twenty seconds. The wearer will still be visible to viewers on either plane but only as a ghostly ethereal figure. In this state, the wearer may walk through solid unenchanted items and be immune to all attacks save those powered by magic.

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